“‘The Timepiece?’ Seriously? Not even, I don’t know, Dr. Timepiece?”
Anthony groaned audibly from across the room, where he was unpacking his suitcase. “Yes, because that sounds so much better.”
“Still,” Sally insisted, scanning the rest of the newspaper article. “No offense to—let me see—Bridget Chambers of the Waxahachie Gazette, but it’s not what I would have gone with.”
“How many times do I have to tell you, the branding isn’t up to us? Besides, nobody would take a superhero seriously if their name was, I don’t know, a Back to the Future reference, or whatever else you might want to go for. You should be glad that you have a name at all—Waxahachie seems to be growing fond of you.”
Sally snorted. “Aside from the police force. And the mayor’s office. And the criminals. And my boss, although I think that one’s unconnected to our start-up vigilante business.”
“Anytime you get tired of dealing with—”
“Yeah, yeah,” Sally cut in, waving him off. “UNM Polvo would love to have me, on account of how I’m an absolute delight. But there’s no point in me moving there when you’re down here anyways.”
“Only for the summer,” he reminded her. “Your workplace isn’t as keen on hiring me, nor do I have any interest in smashing particles together.”
“Sure, who’d want to do that when you could be grading papers?” She smirked and dodged the Stephen King novel he threw at her. “Hey, you could put an eye out with that thing!”
From under the couch, Archimedes hissed his disdain for both Stephen King and flying objects.
“Just keeping you sharp.” Anthony pulled another couple of books out of his bag before closing it. “Alright, I think that’s it.”
“Excellent! Just like back in college, hm?”
Anthony looked around the small guest bedroom (formerly functioning as an office) where he would be staying for the next seven weeks, and was grateful to find that it wasn’t remotely reminiscent of the battered old townhouse the two of them had once shared with a couple of other undergraduate students. “I should hope not. As I recall, you kicked me out senior year because you decided you couldn’t stand me.”
“Clearly, your memory is failing you. You were the one who stormed out, and it was only for two weeks. Although you’re right on one count—I absolutely cannot stand you. Now if you’re done unpacking, come on, we’ve got some errands to run!”
After lunch (and a quick stop at the grocery store for cat food and coffee filters), Sally and Anthony found their way to a local fabric and crafting supply shop.
Fighting crime, the two had quickly discovered, was a task far easier said than planned, and far easier planned than done. Their earliest endeavors were further complicated by the facts that Sally had no practical experience in combat, that Anthony was attempting to direct and assist her across state lines, and that they both had full-time jobs already. After a while, they’d realized that the most effective method was for Sally to simply press pause on time and stroll through the city in search of anyone who needed assistance—a method that involved too much aimless wandering for either of their tastes. Sally had begun experimenting with police scanners and taken a defense class at her local gym. For his part, Anthony was working overtime to adapt his theories on predictive algorithms to foresee where Sally would be needed most on any given day.
But there was one major hurdle to caped crime-fighting that they had yet to overcome, and that was Sally’s hero outfit. She’d managed to disintegrate one of the sleeves entirely on her last outing, and that was only the latest in a long line of rips, tears, and burns. While there was plenty of research available on durable materials and damage-resistant polymers, the materials themselves were much harder to get a hold of, particularly on a budget. So they limited themselves to pre-existing clothing modified through their combined sewing skills, which were far from dazzling.
The current model had as its base a padded grey athletic jumpsuit. To this, Anthony had attached several swatches of blue and red fabric and an embroidered design on the back, two series of overlapping circles that diminished in size until they joined in the middle.
(That had been a fun conversation. “Look, you’ve got to have a symbol, that’s how this goes—”
“I don’t care what the comics say, it looks ridiculous and it doesn’t even mean anything!”)
Sally’s contributions primarily involved pushing for a cape. As they walked the aisles, she yanked cloth from shelves, attempting to unroll each piece until it was long enough that she could drape it across either her or Anthony’s shoulders before he noticed (only occasionally cheating through use of her powers).
“Fine,” he said at last, throwing his arms up and dislodging the length of faux fur Sally had just set on him. “Go with the cape. It’s your outfit. Ignore your business consultant if you want to; it doesn’t make a difference for me in the end.”
“Business consultant?” She laughed, hopping onto the back of the cart he was pushing. “Is that what you are?”
“Tired of shopping is what I am.” Despite this claim, he pushed the cart faster now, tipping precariously as he rounded a corner and nearly losing Sally before the last of the vigilante crafting gear was acquired. Somehow they made it to checkout without knocking any shelves down. With shopping bags in hand they returned at last to Sally’s run-down van, an evening of sewing and The Two Towers: Extended Edition before them.
When Sally unlocked her apartment, Archimedes was mewling from the other side of the kitchen counter.
“Yes, yes, I know,” Sally murmured. “You’re a poor neglected cat who never receives any love or attention. Don’t worry, we picked up your dinner while we were out. Although I’m sure that a fierce predator such as yourself is—”
She stopped short as she rounded the corner into the small kitchen. There was Archimedes—and there, kneeling down to scratch his head, was a woman Sally had never seen before in her life.
The stranger stood up abruptly. “I’m so sorry for the intrusion. You must be Dr. Grissom.”
“And you’re, what, a cat burglar?” A quick halt on time, so that she could take a few minutes to survey the woman at close range. She didn’t appear to be armed—all she had on her was a badge for a group Sally had never heard of, some sort of smart watch, and a pen—but that didn’t make Sally feel particularly at ease. Carrying a gun would have been overkill when she already knew Sally’s name and how to get into her apartment.
Forward motion. The woman smiled, although Sally didn’t think it was at her pun. “That was very impressive.”
“Really? I thought the choice of wordplay was a little obvious.”
“Excuse me; I was referring to your ability,” the woman said.
“Wh—what?” Sally froze. It was as if a window had been left open somewhere in her circulatory system, and now a draft was wafting its way through her veins. Every mission she’d sent herself on in the past couple of months flitted through her head in quick succession. Anthony had insisted that she needed to be more careful with her identity, that someone would work out who “Dr. Timepiece” was sooner or later. She should’ve listened to him. (Not that she’d ever give him the satisfaction of hearing her say those words.)
“You’re standing in a different position than you were a millisecond ago, and my jacket pocket is unbuttoned,” the stranger explained. She adjusted this now, then held out her hand. “Amelia Arnault.”
Sally didn’t take it, just stared at her. The silent standoff would likely have gone on for some while had Anthony not walked into the apartment.
“—ask me, what were you thinking with the—oh.” He dropped the bag of costume materials on the counter, looking back and forth between the two women. “Is this a...friend of yours?”
“I was about to ask the same,” the woman said to Sally, indicating Anthony with a nod and a slight smile. “I didn’t realize you had company. I can come back at a more convenient time.”
“How about you explain who you are right the hell now, or you come back never?” Sally responded.
Amelia wavered. “I don’t know that that would be wise,” she said, tactfully not looking at Anthony.
“Anything you want to say to me, you can say to him. He knows about—whatever it is you think you know about.”
The woman gave a genuine, full sort of laugh. “I like to think I know about a lot of things. Alright, then. Tonya may not be happy with me, but she’s the one who’s been pushing a ‘policy of honesty’ across the agency.”
“What agency?” Anthony asked, wary now that he saw the way Sally bristled every time Amelia moved.
Archie had no such reservations. He pawed at Amelia’s shoes, but she didn’t cave to the requests for attention. She was all business as she looked Sally in the eyes and spoke. “I represent the Office of Developed Anomalous Resources. We’d like to offer you a job.”